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Caught in the Web: Lakers gear up for the road

February 23, 2010 | 11:26 am


Bryant plans to return tonight against Memphis, with his five-game absence because of a sprained left ankle and injured tendon ending after a four-day stretch between games.

The return couldn't come at a better time with the days off aiding his recovery process, but Bryant maintained the timing to be purely coincidental.

"Days off and the next day doesn’t have anything to do with my decision," Bryant said. "It’s just all about how I feel at that point."

The Lakers see Bryant's return as sorely needed, despite going 4-1 during his absence and playing their next game tonight against the Grizzlies (28-27), which have lost seven of their last 10 games. But don't forget, Memphis beat the Lakers early in the month, capping a 5-3 trip and souring the night Bryant surpassed Jerry West as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.

Then there's the fact that the Lakers (42-14) have only four games remaining this month, before beginning a March schedule that features 11 road games and three sets of back-to-backs. The Lakers have experienced those travels before with their eight-game trip in January, but it's a challenge nonetheless that coincides with Bryant coming back into the lineup. For Bryant, he hopes any adjustment period between the four-day layoff and his return will be minimal.

Anytime you have this many days off, it’s always starting the engines up a little bit," Bryant said. "It takes a while for the engines to warm up."

More Lakers links (after the jump)

--Take it for what it's worth. I'm just providing the link, but by no means does this mean I think this is accurate. Nonetheless, the New York Post's Peter Vecsey outlines a scenario where Jackson would ultimately coach the Clippers next season.

--Lakers trainer Gary Vitti has surely been busy these days, what with monitoring Bryant's countless injuries. The Times' Broderick Turner shows just how demanding Vitti's job entails. It's a service Bryant says he appreciates.

--In his latest NBA rankings, Hoopsworld's Eric Pincus currently has the Lakers at No. 2. But he expects great things with Bryant's return. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix already has the Lakers at the top spot, thanks to Cleveland's three-game losing streak. ESPN's Marc Stein seconds that notion. ESPN's John Hollinger agrees too.

--Silver Screen and Roll exlains why the remaining stretch of games is critical for the Lakers' playoff success. Forum Blue and Gold provides a blueprint on how Bryant and his teammates should play together.

--It may not have been The conventional wisdom at the time, but the Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery notes how the Memphis Grizzlies benefitted from trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers.

--With his history with Memphis, Gasol admitted he has extra incentive against his former team. There's also another incentive, since his brother, Marc, plays for the Grizzlies as well. In the video below, you can see Gasol takes his rivalry with his brother with a competitive spirit, as indicated by initial testiness when asked if he thinks Marc would ever surpass him as a basketball player. Jackson also manages to drop two "Word of the Days" when describing Marc's progression.

Tweet of the Day: "Ron Artest didn't know who the Grizzlies' coach is today at practice. Also didn't know the USA-Canada hockey outcome" -- mcten (ESPN Los Angeles' NBA reporter Dave McMenamin).

--Mark Medina

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Photo: While Lakers forward Lamar Odom collides with Memphis center Hasheem Thabeet on a driving layup, Grizzlies guard Rudy Gay gets his hand tangled in the net. Credit: Mike Brown/EPA.